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The Trash Can Report - Scrounging for Week 10
Dennis Leonard
November 10, 2004

“All hope abandon ye who enter here.”
      - Dante Alighieri, Canto 3 from ‘The Divine Comedy: Hell’

Hello again and welcome back to the Trash Can Report. People misquote the line above more frequently than they get it right, which Dante ascribed to the “welcome sign” hanging above the gates of Hell. But it’s an appropriate anthem for this week’s Trash Can Report because we’re digging deeper into the bowels of the waiver wire than we’ve ever gone before. It’s easy to get complacent and make low-risk picks. But what fun would that be? So lose that winter clothing before we begin our descent into the abysmal depths beneath us.

Josh McCown – ARI: McCown was on my watch list last week. He did alright, I guess: 162 yards, 1 TD, no INTs, no fumbles, and 1 sack. But that was against a respectable Dolphins’ DEF. Furthermore, the game was played in Miami. This week it’s a whole different bowl of gumbo. So if you find yourself cursing Pennington, McNair, or Leftwich, or your QB is just on a bye, take a serious look at McCown before you disregard him as the wavier wire bilge he really is. But hey, that’s the commodity we deal in around here, so McCown is certainly our people.

Don’t even bother looking at McCown’s stats, unless mediocrity turns you on. This week it’s all about the match up as the Cards lock horns with the Giants in Week 10. Let’s take a look at what’s to Mclike about McCown this week.

  • While McCown is the 5th most sacked QB in the NFL (which not doubt contributes to his poor stats) the Giants lost both starting defensive ends last week. Without Strahan (torn pectoral) or Keith Washington (torn ACL) time should virtually stand still for McCown once he drops back in the pocket;
  • The Giants have also lost three safeties this year: Omar Stoutmire, Shawn Williams, and most recently Jack Brewer;
  • The Cards play at home, which usually energizes every aspect of the team;
  • Boldin is back and contributing, which means there are three legitimate wide receivers for McCown to choose from;
  • Much to my personal dismay, the Giants are playing very sloppy on DEF right now. Last week’s game alone accounted for more than 20% of their penalties (14 of 68) and they failed to register a single INT versus newbie-Bear QB Craig Krenzel;
  • The Giants’ offense is turning the ball over a lot right now (5 of their 11 turnovers this season came last week), which should help McCown get back on the field; and
  • The Cardinals are coming off an exciting win over Miami last week, so I look for Arizona’s forward momentum to overtake the Giants’ downward spiral.

Okay, I’ll admit it. This pick is about as sexy as Barney Gumbal in a cellophane thong. But McCown proved at least once this year that he can produce against a weak opponent (see, e.g., Week 5 versus my poor, poor 49ers). So if you’ve agonized over the QB free agent market and the best you can come up with is a genuinely panicked facial expression, consider rolling the dice on McCown. Odds are he gets enough work done to be a serviceable, temporary replacement. At the very least I’ll bet dollars to donuts that he improves on last week’s performance.

Reshard Lee – DAL: Hey, could you hand me that spatula? Because today I’m scraping the bottom of the trash can for running backs. After missing on Eddie George last week you might think me insane for coming back to the Dallas backfield yet again. Folks, that’s just how desperate I am in my local this week. With Tomlinson, Chatman, and Wheatley on byes I’m left with Chris Brown and Mike Bennett, who may actually be deactivated for Week 10. While I had all but employed animal sacrifice in hopes of Bennett reclaiming the Vikings’ starting spot, it just wasn’t meant to be. So, if you’re like me and you desperate for Week 10 RB options, let’s pick Lee up with some tongs and see what this plecostomous-like* RB might offer up.

For starters, Lee returns kick offs. In fact, that is his main appeal this week because the Eagles are coming to town and you just know they’re pissed about losing their undefeated status. Given the relative decay of the Dallas DEF I predict that McNabb & Co. will dismantle the Cowboys with chop shop-like efficiency. That should mean an increased load for Lee returning kicks. Furthermore, Lee sees a little action on regular offense. He is averaging a healthy 5.0 yards per carry (relative to George’s 3.4 and Anderson’s 4.2). But I wouldn’t get too excited about Lee becoming the featured back anytime soon. Coach Parcells has stated unequivocally that he doesn’t trust this rookie with pass protection duties. Still, last week Lee coughed up 39 yards on 6 carries and showed good burst on a few runs. Lastly, he did score way back in Week 1 so there is always a glimmering sliver of hope he might once again cross the stripe.

Wow. That’s it? Unfortunately, yes. If I get 30+ yards rushing and 80+ yards in the return game (or the equivalent of 7 points) I’d consider this pick a hit. Anything more would stun me. But hey, considering the alternative (Mike Bennett for 2 points last week?!?!) I’ll take any kind of production I can get from my #2 RB this week. And it goes without saying that, unless you get points in the return game, don’t even think about touching Lee.

*Non-football note: the plecostomous is a bottom-feeding fish that some aquarium owners like because it feeds off the slime that grows on the inside of the tank. It’s ugly. You can’t eat it. It isn’t friendly. And it doesn’t do anything even remotely interesting to watch. It just eats slime, which means you don’t have to clean the tank as often.

Verron Haynes – PIT: *If* Duce Staley can’t suit up this weekend Haynes could make for a decent play. If Week 9 is any indication (and I think it is) Bettis will get the lion’s share of the carries. Still, when called up Haynes has been marginally productive. Last week he put up 51 yards on 12 rushing attempts, plus 44 yards on two receptions, which would have been 9 points in most leagues. He is averaging a respectable 4.7 yards per carry and 7.5 yards per reception. His Week 10 opponent – the Browns – are allowing a surprisingly low 107.2 rushing yards per game. However, they are tied for the 4th most rushing TDs allowed at 9. While I doubt Haynes will do much better this week relative to last, he’s worth a look if you’re in need of some emergency assistance at RB this week. The primary downside to Haynes is that he appears to be battling a case of turf toe. So keep an eye out for his availability before you blindly rely on him this Sunday.

Derrick Blaylock/Larry Johnson – KC: As you know by know the Trash Can Report is all about locating players with the opportunity to produce. Filling in for the almighty Priest Holmes *might* qualify. Holmes’ MCL strain (be careful not to call it “sprain” or coach Vermeil might leap through the computer screen and throttle you) could very well keep him out this week. Vermeil stated on Tuesday that Blaylock would get the start if he is able to play. But Blaylock was out himself last week with a quad injury, though he is reportedly improving. If he can’t go then Johnson inherits the starting gig. Johnson, while healthy, didn’t exactly set the world on fire in replacement of Holmes versus the Buccaneers. However, coach Vermeil has stated that regardless of who is totting the rock their game plan won’t change much. That should mean lots of rushing opportunities for someone.

The only numbers of significance here involve the Chiefs’ Week 10 opponents: the dreaded Saints. (Well, dreaded by their fans, anyways). The Saints’ rushing DEF is near last in the league. They have allowed the 3 rd most rushing yards per game with 142.6; they are allowing an average of 4.7 yards per carry, which ties them for the NFL’s worst; and they have allowed the third most rushing TDs with 9. It wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination for the Chiefs to get an early lead then attempt the grind out the clock. That would just mean more opportunities to pad the team’s rushing stats.

Chances are that someone in your league, likely Holmes’ owner, already has either Blaylock or Johnson on their roster. If either (or both) is available they are certainly worth picking up as a short-term, speculative upside investment. Just watch Holmes and Blaylock’s injury status through out the week before you go plugging any of the Chiefs’ running backs into your active line up. FYI, of the two I like Blaylock more.

Lee Evans – BUF: sometimes it’s hard to shake preconceived or long-standing notions. But the NFL is shiftier that a Bourbon street pick pocket so you’ve got to be on the look out for changes in trends. One seemingly safe assumption just a few weeks ago was that the Bills couldn’t score even if their opponents played with their helmets on backwards. Folks, that ain’t the case anymore. As a Travis Henry owner I’m loathe to admit it, but McGahee has done wonders for the Bills’ offense that was looking virtually extinct not long ago. And the resurgence of the running game is helping to open up the passing game.

Furthermore, Bobby Shaw was waived and Josh Reed is suffering from a knee injury. That opened the door of opportunity for rookie Lee Evans. Evans’ season-to-date stats aren’t impressive at first: he caught 16 of the 31 passes thrown to him for a ho-hum 51.6% reception ratio. But last week when he filled in for Reed he did pretty well: 5 of 7 for 64 yards and a TD. Furthermore, he’s got big play ability, as evidenced by his 20.1 yard per catch average.

I also like the match up this week versus the Patriots. While the Bills have about as much chance of winning the game as I do of getting struck by lighting while simultaneously being eaten by a cougar, the Patriots’ secondary took a double-barrel shotgun blast of injury with the loss of starting cornerbacks Poole and Law. I fully expect that if Bledsoe can stay upright he’ll test that weakness early and often. Plus, there is a huge potential for garbage time production for all Bills’ receivers. While I don’t like Evans as an every week starter he makes for nice short-term depth until the full extent of Josh Reed’s knee injury is known.

Derrick Armstrong – HOU: I noticed Armstrong twice this year: back in Week 5 when I was at the Texans’ game (where Armstrong scored) and last week. Armstrong is a long-shot/upside pick. But Week 10 looks like one of the better games to bet on this dark horse WR.

First, let’s examine the man. Armstrong has been thrown to 29 times and caught 22 of those passes for a surprisingly effective 75.86% reception ratio. That’s the best percentage of any Texan, other than Dom Davis. He is averaging a healthy 15 yards per catch. Despite limited involvement early in the season he had a season high 8 passes thrown his way last week (one of which was in the red zone) and he managed 84 yards on 6 catches. Armstrong’s recent involvement can largely be attributed to Corey Bradford’s lingering groin injury. So long as Bradford is at less than 100% Armstrong should continue to get some looks. Plus, it isn’t like David Carr is playing favorites these days. Last week Gaffney led the team with 9 passes thrown his way, but Andre Johnson got 8, as did Armstrong. Now that’s spreadin’ the ball around. If Carr continues to do so there should be enough opportunities for Armstrong to be somewhat useful.

Second, let’s look at an interesting trend for the Texans. They appear to be evolving into a pass-first team. The Texans ran the ball more than they passed in three of their first four games. However, the Texans passed more than they ran in three of their last four games. To be more specific, over the last four games the Texans threw the ball 141 times and ran the ball 113 times. Keep in mind that those 113 rushing attempts include 16 by Carr himself. Exclude those 16 and Carr threw the ball 141 times relative to the 97 times he handed the ball off. Translation: the Texans threw the ball on 59.24% of their plays, which I believe demonstrates an evolving pass-first trend that should benefit all Texans’ receivers. (FYI, during their first four games the Texans passed the ball 107 times and ran the ball 127 times, so they were clearly a run-first team during that time frame).

Third, let’s look at their Week 10 opponent: the Colts. It’s banal to keep saying this, but I’ll do so anyways. Manning and the Colts score virtually at will but have the worst secondary in the NFL. They’ve allowed the most receiving yards (2,427), the highest average receiving yards per game (303.4), and are tied for allowing the 4th most passing TDs (15). We’ve abused this recipe for success before and there is no reason to eliminate it from our diet now.

Every facet of the Texans’ passing game should be in somebody’s line up this week. Carr and Johnson are way too obvious to slum here and Gaffney got some well-deserved coverage in the Free Agent Forecast. But if you’re late to the party there may still be enough milk left in the hind tit that is Derrick Armstrong to satiate some team’s hunger for a #3 or #4 WR.

Reggie Swinton – DET: this guy is a desperation play. But Swinton has been active in the last three games catching 10 of the 14 passes thrown his way. Both Az Hakim and Roy Williams are a little gimpy and Tai Streets was last seen doing his best “where’s Waldo?” impersonation. Since the Lions’ running game is also MIA I look for Harrington to pass, pass, pass. Swinton is probably only good for 40 or 50 yards and an outside chance for a score, but if that’s okay with you then by all means go for it.

Jeremy Shockey – NYG: Shockey is a main-stay in TE-mandatory leagues but he is also worth a look as a WR/TE flex. The main reason is this: he went 6 of 12 last week posting 64 yards and a TD. It’s those 12 passes thrown his way, coupled with his TD potential that make him attractive. No, he isn’t going to challenge my boy Antonio Gates (who I begged you repeatedly to pick up as a flex player weeks and weeks ago) but he should see added opportunities in the coming weeks because Warner loves going to him when he gets pressured. And Warner has been getting pressured a lot lately. Here are some other tid-bits that may interest you:

  • Three of Warner’s four TD passes have gone to Shockey;
  • 19 of his 33 catches have gone for first downs;
  • He is outperforming Toomer. Shockey has 383 yards and 3 TDs versus Toomer’s 436 yards and no TDs. In my Huddle league that means Shockey has been good for 53 points so far, whereas Toomer has only managed 39;
  • Season to date, Shockey has a respectable 57.8% reception ratio; and
  • He is only three passes away from tying Toomer as the most targeted Giant.

Shockey is good for more than just a one week play. If you need depth and all the other stud tight ends are gone (Gates, Gonzo, McMichael, Johnson, Witten, and possibly Wiggins) then Shockey is next in line for a permanent roster spot.

Bengals’ DEF: a guy in my Huddle league suggested Cincinnati’s DEF two weeks ago. While my Spidey senses didn’t tingle for their Week 8 match up versus the Titans (and as it turns out that would have been a bad play) the Bengals’ Week 9 performance versus the Cowboys made me take a second look. Surprising, the Bengals offer enough upside to make a serviceable play in Week 10.

Does it surprise you that the Bengals have recovered the most turnovers of any DEF in the NFL? Yup, 21: 10 INTs and 11 recovered fumbles. That sure blew my socks off. They have also forced the most fumbles (23) in the NFL. And while they have allowed the 6th highest average yards per game (351.6) they’ve been doing a relatively better job of limiting their opponents’ scores: a middle of the road 21.1 point per game average.

The match up this week versus the Redskins could go either way. Brunell has the NFL’s 27 th “best” passing yards to date: 1188. He’s also tied with the 11 th “best” passing TD total at 7. Folks, that’s just plain ugly. In fact, the Redskins as a team have scored the fewest points in NFL… and they’ve already had their bye week. Furthermore, their kicking game is about as potent as a mixed drink from a strip club. With Hall sidelined Ola Kimrin (who?) has filled in deplorably by missing 40% of his field goal attempts (he’s 3 of 5 in three games). That just leaves Portis to worry about. Well, since he is tied for the 2 nd most fumbles in the NFL (3) and the Bengals have forced the most fumbles in the NFL, I think you can see where this might be headed.

I dunno. This pick has a lot of upside but Washington will likely just run Portis straight into the NFL’s worst rushing DEF all day long. And that would take some of the luster out of this pick, assuming Portis can hang on to the ball of course.

Shayne Graham – CIN: Over the last four games Graham has been the most productive kicker in the NFL, second only to Vinatieri. Even more surprising is that he is only owned in 58% of CBS Sportsline leagues. With Janikowski, Elam, whoever is kicking for Miami, and perennial Trash Can Report favorite Nate Kaeding on byes this week, you may be searching for a replacement. If Graham is available scoop him up. He’s 18 for 20 on field goals and 14 for 14 on extra points. That means he’s both attempted the most field goals and made the most field goals of all the NFL’s kickers, second only to David Akers. Heck, Graham might even make for a nice permanent upgrade if you current kicker’s output is about as exciting as three-hour microeconomics lecture.

The Bengals are facing the rock-solid Redskins’ DEF in Week 10 so Graham might get called upon more than once if the offense can’t find the end zone. Interestingly, Washington has allowed only 11 field goal attempts so far this season and even managed to block one of them, so that stat runs contra to my recommendation. However, since Washington has scored the NFL’s fewest points to date (115) this game could easily be decided by a field goal or two. The Bengals have a lot of confidence in Graham. So should you.

Lawrence Tynes – KC: I’m not that high on Tynes as an every week play but this week he should contribute at a respectable level because of the match up. So if your regular guy is on a bye Tynes is a solid option. Simply put, Kansas City is on an offensive tear right now. Despite their early season woes they’re scoring like Hugh Hefner. While San Diego may have the highest point total (262), the Chiefs actually have the highest per game point average: 29.6 versus the Chargers 29.1. So, what do you think might happen when the team scoring the most points per game meets the team who is giving up the most points per game? Break out your drool bibs because this week’s opponents – the Saints – are allowing a league-high 29.2 points per game. Folks, with or without Priest Holmes the Chiefs should devour the Saints like a 600-pound gorilla does a banana. That could mean a looooooot of extra point opportunities for Tynes. And he might even get to try a field goal or two. So if you are willing to forego upside for guaranteed, safe production Tynes is your man this week.

Prior Picks That Bear Repeating

Michael Lewis – NO: If you don’t get individual points in the return game skip to the next pick. Because while Lewis occasionally sees a couple passes on regular offense his real value lies in returning punts and kicks. Lewis has accumulated the 2 nd most kick off return yardage to date with 786. He has also racked up the 5th most punt return yards with 176 despite the Saints’ having the NFL’s worst DEF. Remember how I mentioned that the Chiefs were scoring the most points per game and the Saints were allowing the most points per game? Lewis is another guy that should benefit greatly when those two forces collide in Week 10.

Brandon Lloyd – SF: I’ve covered this guy extensively in weeks prior. All you need to know for this week is that both Lloyd and Rattay are healthy (enough) to play and that Carolina got smoked by the Raiders passing game last week. That, and Lloyd has scored in four of the five games he and Rattay have played in together.

Cardinals’ DEF: last week I recommended Arizona’s DEF because they were playing the hapless (now Wannsteadtless) Dolphins. The Cards made the most of the opportunity: 7 th most productive fantasy DEF in my local last week. This week I’m recommending them again but for different reasons.

Whether or not you want to admit it Arizona has a great fantasy DEF this year. In fact, they are quietly tied for the 5 th most productive DEF in my local. Lots of folks are still gun-shy about relying on them regularly. I assume this is because the team’s 2-7 record is about as attractive as discount British dentistry. Still, the following stats should give you warm, tingly sensations in your nether regions:

  • Tied for 2 nd most turnovers in the NFL with 20;
  • 2 nd most forced fumbles (not to be confused with fumbles recovered) with 19;
  • Tied for 3 rd best net-turnover rate (turnovers minus giveaways) at 9;
  • Tied for 8 th most sacks with 17;
  • They’ve registered two defensive TDs; and
  • One of only five teams to notch a safety.

The Cardinals are only middle of the road when it comes to limiting points and yards, so it’s obvious they make their hay on turnovers, sacks, and such. What that means is that they make an opportunistic play versus mistake-prone offenses but only a marginal play versus teams playing safe, error-free football. So whom are they playing this week, you ask? The stumbling, bumbling, fumbling Giants, that’s who.

It wasn’t long ago that I recommend Kurt Warner as a QB pairing with Joey Harrington. While Harrington has gone on to play steady ball, since then Warner’s value has seen a depression that a dump truck full of Zoloft couldn’t put a dent in. Let’s take a look at some of what he has done wrong this season:

  • Leads the NFL – head and shoulders above the rest – in sacks at 33. Vick comes in a distant second with 25;
  • He is tied for the 2 nd most fumbles in the NFL with 4; and
  • While Warner has only thrown 4 picks he has only thrown 4 TDs, though he did rush for 1 more.

Hmmm. I wonder what might happen if one of the NFL’s most opportunistic defenses met one of the NFL’s most sacked, most fumble-prone QBs?

Here are some other random reasons I think the Cardinals’ DEF makes a great play in Week 10:

  • Despite Tiki Barber and Steve Christies’ spectacular play this year keep in mind the Giants have scored the NFL’s 7 th fewest points: only 141. But unlike Miami, the Giants have already had their bye, so they can’t use that as an excuse;
  • The Cardinals play at home in Week 10 where they traditionally put up more of a fight. In fact, two of the Cardinals’ three best defensive performances this year were played at home (Week 4 versus New Orleans and Week 7 versus Seattle);
  • Due to “Giant” losses on defense (discussed in McCown’s recommendation), it is likely that the Cardinals’ offense will experience a better than average time of possession, which should keep Arizona’s DEF off the field and minty fresh;
  • The Giants, on the other hand, are sporting the NFL’s 6 th worst time of possession at 28:26; and
  • The Giants are the 3 rd most penalized team in the NFL (68 penalties) and have forgone the 5 th most yards due to penalties (544). That should make the Cards job on defense a little easier.

I had much higher hopes for Warner and the Giants because they were playing pretty well early in the season. But it’s clear the Giants recently took a wrong turn towards Funkytown. (And not in the groovy 1979 Lipps Inc. kind of way, but in the suitcase full of tainted pork kind of way). Now, we can stand around and moan about the Giants’ misery or we can do what any red-blooded American should do in this kind of situation: we can profit from it.

Titans’ DEF: I’m just not sold on the Bears. Yeah, they’ve won two in a row, but that was against San Francisco and the New York Giants. Call me crazy but I think the bye week will have helped the Titans heal up and get their minds right. Let’s take a closer look at why the Bears’ offense isn’t that imposing:

  • averaging the 3 rd fewest yards per game with 258.8;
  • averaging the 2 nd lowest yards per play at 4.3;
  • averaging the 5 th lowest points per game at 17;
  • They have the 7 th worst time of possession at 38:41;
  • They’ve punted 54 times, which is the 2 nd most in the NFL;
  • Their offense has turned the ball over 16 times, which is the NFL’s 4 th most;
  • 3 rd fewest receptions at 118; and
  • 2 nd fewest passing TDs with only 4.

Look, I’m not trying to sell the Titans as a dominant DEF because they aren’t. But the sad truth is that I’ve had ear infections that were scarier than Chicago’s offense. 

Guys I Thought About Covering But Opted Not To

Jerome Bettis – PIT: yet another RB long in the tooth teaches us young “whipper snappers” the value of respecting our elders. The obvious silverback pick up will be the first guys off waivers in those leagues he is still available in.

Julius Jones – DAL: Jones is getting closer to returning. If he is available he’s worth stashing on your bench.

Eddie Kennison – KC: with all the attention being paid to Morton, Eddie K has been the odd man out, at least in the press. But he went 6 of 8 last week and is facing the circus clowns the Saints call a defense this week. I just didn’t have time to cover him today. If he performs well this week I’ll cover him for Week 11. Or, if you’re hurting for a WR he might be worth looking into on your own.

Antonio Bryant – CLE: ditto. And if the Steelers have a weakness right now, it’s their secondary. My gut tells me Bryant, who went 4 of 6 and was targeted once in the red zone last week, may be a nice #3 WR as long as Davis remains sidelined.

Troy Brown – NE: Brown went 3 of 3 last week and was targeted twice in the red zone. If he sees any kind of up-tick in looks he’ll be worth some analysis.

Jeremy Stevens – SEA: in TE-mandatory leagues he’s worth a look. He went 4 of 6 last week and could see an increased work load if and when Robinson ever gets suspended. He just didn’t seem worth the effort this week.

Eagles’ DEF: if the Bengals were able to subjugate Dallas in Week 9 I can only imagine what the angry Eagles will do to the Cowpies in Week 10. But, the sad fact is, the Eagles DEF is too high profile to hang out here in the ol’ Trash Can Report, so I opted not to cover them.

Well, that’s it for now. I sincerely hope you don’t have to rely on too many of the names in today’s column. If you do, odds are you’re team is already sitting firmly in one of Dante’s 9 circles of Hell. Good luck to everyone in Week 10. Game on!